• Open Access

Efficacy and Safety of Sound Wave Treatment of Recurrent Airway Obstruction in Horses


  • This work was performed at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, West Lafayette, IN. Previously presented in abstract form at the Veterinary Comparative Respiratory Society annual symposium, October 2009 by Kristina Goncarovs.

Corresponding author: Laurent Couetil, DVM, PhD, Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, 625 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907; e-mail: couetill@purdue.edu.


Background: One proposed nonmedical therapy for recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) in horses is a handheld acoustic device that propels sound waves from the nose down the tracheobronchial tree where it is intended to dislodge mucous and relax bronchospasm, permitting clearance of mucoid secretions.

Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of this device when used as per the manufacturer's recommendations as a treatment for RAO.

Animals: Nine adult horses previously diagnosed with RAO.

Methods: Prospective, cross-over clinical trial. Horses were exposed to a dusty environment until airway obstruction developed as defined by standard lung mechanics (SLM). Horses were randomly assigned to receive either acoustic therapy or a sham treatment for 4 weeks while being maintained in this environment. Horses were evaluated by clinical scores, SLM, and forced expiration regularly for 4 weeks. The opposite treatment was administered after a washout period.

Results: Seven horses received the treatment; 9 received the sham. There were no changes (P > .05) in clinical score, maximal change in transpulmonary pressure (ΔPLmax), lung resistance (RL), or the forced expiratory flow rate averaged over the last 75–95% of expiration (FEF75−95%) over the study period. The device was determined to be safe, although several minor adverse effects were noted, including head tossing, coughing, and chewing during treatment.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Treatment with this device did not improve clinical signs or lung function in horses with RAO kept in a dusty environment. Currently accepted treatments, including environmental management and medical therapy, should be recommended.